U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today detailed the impact of looming automatic budget cuts, saying they would force schools to lay off teachers and eliminate services for students while indiscriminately reducing programs that serve Americans of all ages.
“Essentially, we’re playing chicken with the lives of the American people – our schools, communities, small businesses, farms, public safety, infrastructure and national security,” Secretary Duncan told members of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. “If we don’t work together to solve this problem, it further erodes what little faith remains in our elected leadership to put partisan politics aside and do the right thing for children and families.”
If Congress fails to create a long-term plan to reduce the budget deficit by the end of the year, across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration will go into effect on almost every discretionary program, reducing funding for education, defense, public safety and all other federal agencies.
Duncan urged Congress to work with President Obama, who has submitted a plan that includes $4 trillion in deficit reductions and calls for targeted cuts in spending.
“We have tightened our belts in a responsible way,” Duncan said. “Most importantly, the President’s plan is a long-term fix. It will put an end to the see-saw budgeting that leaves state and local officials wondering if they can count on the federal government to be a partner with them on education and other vital programs.”
Based on the Congressional Budget Office’s projection that sequestration will reduce programs by 7.8 percent, Duncan estimated that the following programs would be at risk:
- Title I funding would be cut by $1.1 billion, cutting off funding to more than 4,000 schools serving an estimated 1.8 million disadvantaged students. The jobs of more than 15,000 teachers and aides would be at risk. Students would lose access to individual instruction, afterschool programs, and other interventions that help close achievement gaps.
- Funding for special education would be reduced by $900 million. That could translate into the layoffs of more than 10,000 teachers, aides, and other staff who provide essential instruction and other support to 6.6 million children with disabilities.
- In higher education, the Department would need to slash spending on contracts to support the processing and origination of student loans, which could cause delays that will hurt students as they make decisions about college and could reduce services for borrowers seeking to repay their loans.
For Title I, special education and other large K-12 programs, the cuts would take effect in the fall of 2013. Duncan pointed out that in a recent poll 80 percent of school administrators said they would be unable to replace the lost federal funds with state and local money.
Duncan also highlighted the potential impact on Head Start, child care, health research and other programs that support children and their families.